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Sternula nereis 

Scope: Global
Language: English
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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Charadriiformes Laridae

Scientific Name: Sternula nereis Gould, 1843
Common Name(s):
English Fairy Tern
Synonym(s):
Sterna nereis (Gould, 1843)
Sternula nereis ssp. nereis Gould, 1843 — Christidis and Boles (2008)
Taxonomic Source(s): Turbott, E.G. 1990. Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.
Taxonomic Notes: Sternula nereis (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Sterna.

Identification information: 25 cm. Very small white and grey tern with black cap. Upperparts pale grey; white forked tail; underparts white; legs orange-yellow; bill yellow-brown; white forehead with black crown, nape and line to eye. Similar species: Very similar to Little Tern S. albifrons except upperwings more uniformly grey and forehead steep. Hints: . Voice: Flight call high pitched 'zwitt'.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable C1 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Baker, P.E., Barré, N., Beauchamp, T., Burbidge, A.H., Burbidge, A., Christidis, L., Dunlop, N., Ford, H., Garnett, S., Herman, K., Holmes, D., Lacey, G., Menkhorst, P., Paton, D., Saunders, D., Southey, I. & Wilson, D.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Anderson, O., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Garnett, S., Harding, M., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., Moreno, R.
Justification:
This species is classified as Vulnerable owing to recent declines over much of its breeding range. Predation by introduced species, disturbance and inappropriate water level management are thought to have contributed most to this decline. However, data is patchy, and a clarification of trends in its strongholds may lead to its status being revised.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Sternula nereis occurs in Australia (subspecies nereis), New Caledonia (to France) (exsul) and northern New Zealand (davisae). Population estimates in the 2011 listing advice (Commonwealth of Australia 2011) indicate that there are a few hundred pairs of Fairy Terns breeding in South Australia (in the Gulfs region) and Tasmania, 120-150 pairs in Victoria with up to 70 individuals in New South Wales. The statement cites a population of 1,600 pairs for Western Australia although this likely to be a significant under-estimate. All up the population of Australian Fairy Terns is currently considered to consist of between 5,000 and 10,000 individuals across all age classes (Burbidge et al. 1996). Though it may be stable in Western Australia, numbers elsewhere in Australia have declined rapidly during the last thirty years. In New Zealand, davisae to three pairs in 1983 but, due to intensive conservation efforts has increased and in 1998, totalled 25-30 birds and 8-10 pairs over four sites. In 2006 this had increased to 30-40 individuals and 10 pairs (Parrish and Honnor 1997, Taylor 2000, S. Garnett in litt. 2007). By 2011, this had increased again to 40-45 individuals and c.10 pairs (P-J. Pridham in litt. 2011). In New Caledonia, exul numbers 100-200 pairs, but was formerly much more abundant (F. Hannecart per. M. Pandolfi in litt. 1999, N. Barre in litt. 2007). One small population in the Southern Lagoon of New Caledonia may be increasing (Baling et al. 2009). 

Countries occurrence:
Native:
Australia; New Caledonia; New Zealand
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:12000000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:

Population estimates indicate that there are a few hundred pairs of Fairy Terns breeding in South Australia (in the Gulfs region) and Tasmania, 120-150 pairs in Victoria with up to 70 individuals in New South Wales. The statement cites a population of 1,600 pairs for Western Australia although this likely to be a significant under-estimate. All up the population of Australian Fairy Terns is currently considered to consist of between 5,000 and 10,000 individuals across all age classes. In New Zealand, davisae numbers 40-45 individuals. In New Caledonia, exul numbers 100-200 pairs. The total population is best placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals.



Trend Justification:  Data indicates a decline of 23% due to, perhaps most importantly, disturbance and predation.

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:2500-9999Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:2-100Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

It breeds on sheltered mainland coastlines and close islands, usually on sandy beaches above the high tide line but below where vegetation occurs (Higgins and Davies 1996). Breeding occurs at different times at different locations, but generally occurs from mid to late October until February (Higgins and Davies 1996), though exsul is a winter breeder both on the Coral Sea and in New Caledonia from at least May to December (Carter and Mustoe 2007, Barre et al. 2012). Adults have been observed to conduct post-fledgling parental care in New Zealand (Preddey 2008). It feeds on fish mainly by following shoals of feeding predatory fish (Higgins and Davies 1996) and also on small benthic fish as gobies, from shallow water in estuaries and harbours (I. Southey in litt. 2017). It lays one or two eggs. The oldest recorded individuals are at least 18 (New Zealand) and 17 years (Australia). Observations over one season on New Caledonia revealed a low rate of nesting success, with only one May to September (Barre et al. 2012) in five nests producing a fledgling (Baling et al. 2009). 

Systems:Terrestrial; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):11
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

Threats include habitat degradation by encroaching weeds and housing developments, predation by introduced mammals and gulls, extreme weather events (which locally at least can put an entire breeding season at risk) (Parrish and Honnor 1997), and disturbance by humans, dogs and vehicles, either causing the direct destruction of eggs or desertion of nests (Higgins and Davies 1996, Parrish and Honnor 1997, F. Hannecart per. M. Pandolfi in litt. 1999). In South Australia inappropriate water level management has led to a collapse in the numbers of prey fish, and a subsequent decline in colonies (D. Paton in litt. 2007). In New Zealand recent removal of mangroves in the key breeding site seems to have depressed breeding success severely by causing a major decline in prey fish (I.Southey in litt. 2017), but it is uncertain as to whether these impacts will continue as there has only been one breeding season since this occurred.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
Many colonies in Australia are regularly monitored, and intensive management has led to an increase in the population on New Zealand.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor all breeding colonies annually to assess trends. Control introduced mammals and other nest predators at important breeding sites. Oppose developments which would encroach on breeding colonies. Restrict access to important breeding colonies.

Amended [top]

Amended reason: Edited: Geographic Range, Countries of Occurrence, Habitat and Ecology, Threats, Movement patterns, Conservation Actions in Place, Important Conservation Actions Needed and Research Needed. Added references and also added new Contributors and a new Compiler.

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.1. Marine Neritic - Pelagic
suitability:Suitable season:breeding major importance:No
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.1. Marine Neritic - Pelagic
suitability:Suitable season:non-breeding major importance:No
12. Marine Intertidal -> 12.2. Marine Intertidal - Sandy Shoreline and/or Beaches, Sand Bars, Spits, Etc
suitability:Suitable season:breeding major importance:Yes
12. Marine Intertidal -> 12.3. Marine Intertidal - Shingle and/or Pebble Shoreline and/or Beaches
suitability:Suitable season:breeding major importance:Yes
13. Marine Coastal/Supratidal -> 13.3. Marine Coastal/Supratidal - Coastal Sand Dunes
suitability:Suitable season:breeding major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.2. Invasive/problematic species control
5. Law & policy -> 5.2. Policies and regulations

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:Yes
  Systematic monitoring scheme:Yes
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Invasive species control or prevention:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:No
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:No
  Included in international legislation:No
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:No
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.2. Commercial & industrial areas
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.4. Storms & flooding
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Whole (>90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 7 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

6. Human intrusions & disturbance -> 6.1. Recreational activities
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.4. Abstraction of surface water (unknown use)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 5 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.7. Reduced reproductive success

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Canis familiaris ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Paspalum distichum ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Negligible declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Spartina alterniflora ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Negligible declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Ammophila arenaria ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Negligible declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Elymus farctus ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Negligible declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Euphorbia paralias ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Negligible declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Malva arborea ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Negligible declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Vulpes vulpes ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.7. Reduced reproductive success

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.2. Problematic native species/diseases -> 8.2.1. Unspecified species
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 5 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.7. Reduced reproductive success

1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Baling, M.; Jeffries, D.; Barré, N.; Brunton, D. H. 2009. A survey of Fairy Tern (Sterna nereis) breeding colonies in the Southern Lagoon, New Caledonia. Emu 109(1): 57-61.

Barré, N.I., Baling, M.A., Baillon, N.A., Le Bouteiller, A.U., Bachy, P.I., Chartendrault, V., Spaggiari, J. 2012. Survey of Fairy Terns Sterna nereis exsul in New Caledonia. Marine Ornithology 40(1): 31-8.

Burbidge, A.A., Johnstone, R.E., Fuller, P.J. 1996. The status of seabirds in Western Australia. In: Ross G J B, Weaver K & Greig J C (eds.). The Status of Australia’s Seabirds: pp 57-71. Proceedings of the National Seabird Workshop, Canberra, 1-2 November 1993. Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia, Canberra.

Carter, M., Mustoe, S. 2007. Another form of fairy tern Sterna nereis breeding in Australian Territory. Australian Field Ornithology 24(4): 167.

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.

Higgins, P. J.; Davies, S. J. J. F. 1996. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds vol 3: snipe to pigeons. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

IUCN. 2017. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-1. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 27 April 2017).

Parrish, R.; Honnor, L. 1997. New Zealand Fairy Tern (Tara-iti) Sterna nereis davisae recovery plan 1997-2002. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Preddey, J. M. 2008. Post-fledging parental care of a juvenile New Zealand Fairy Tern (Sterna nereis davisae). Notornis 55(3): 159-161.

Taylor, G. A. 2000. Action plan for seabird conservation in New Zealand. Department of Conservation, Wellington.


Citation: BirdLife International. 2017. Sternula nereis (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22694691A112452025. . Downloaded on 17 August 2018.
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